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President Trump during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in the East Room of the White House on July 30, 2018. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump’s call for unconditional talks with Iran should not have come as a surprise, given that he has made a habit of personally engaging American adversaries. Sometimes, as with North Korea, after threatening them; other times, as with Russia, after deferring. For Trump, unconditional talks with adversarial leaders — including those whom many in the international community deem toxic — are a feature, not a bug, of his diplomacy.

The big picture: Trump’s approach creates formidable risks, but cannot be dismissed out of hand. The open question is whether such an approach will advance America’s interests or undercut Trump's ability to secure results.

Trump's unorthodox diplomacy has had some qualified success, most notably with North Korea. Although it’s impossible to force North Korea to denuclearize without China's support, Trump's meeting with Kim Jong-un did get North Korea to turn over the bodies of deceased U.S. servicemen and halt nuclear testing indefinitely. However incremental such developments may be, they mark a measure of progress that recent years of methodical mid-level U.S. diplomacy could not achieve.

Yes, but: At the same time, Trump has attacked our traditional allies and alliances — including NATO, the G7, the WTO and the UN — creating anxiety about the stability of the system that has undergirded U.S. diplomacy for nearly seven decades.

What's next: Trump’s approach has rattled diplomatic cages at home and abroad. If he continues along the same path, he might be undercut by his own government, as when the National Security Council and Secretary of State Pompeo essentially retracted his offer to Iran (which the Iranians also rejected). A president’s diplomatic power rests on the value of his words; in order to deliver, Trump needs both the domestic and international support to back his up.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"